Very rarely do teams lose All-Americans to the NFL and improve at the position the following season. However, such is the problem Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is tasked with in replacing the 2012 national sacks leader in pass-rushing linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones rounded out his junior season with a whopping 14.5 sacks — even after sitting out two games with injuries.
His talent, combined with his tenacity and leadership qualities, made Jones the headline player on a defense loaded with future professional talent. As Spring practices kick off throughout the country, Grantham is looking at two guys to help replace Jones’ 28 sacks over the last two seasons (seriously, as an aside, Jones was spectacular while at Georgia, wow).
First, the rather obvious choice: Jordan Jenkins finished second on the team with five sacks as a mere freshman in 2012. The 6-foot-3, 257-pounder is cut from the same cloth as Jones. He is extremely talented, an excellent edge rusher and can play out in space as an outside linebacker, just like Jones did last season.
However, there is another name to keep an eye on throughout the spring and summer. Ray Drew is going to be a junior come fall, and Grantham and head coach Mark Richt are both excited to see this young mega-talent really take hold of the leadership reins for the 2013 squad.
At 6-foot-5 and 284 pounds, Drew is a former five-star recruit who has yet to make a huge difference on the playing field. In 2012, he finished 15th on the team with 23 tackles and did not record a sack. However, 16 of those 23 tackles came in the final four games of the season, and that momentum has carried into the offseason.
This according to DawgsNation’s David Ching:
“Another name to watch will be Ray Drew, a former five-star prospect who is in line to win playing time at defensive end and outside linebacker as a junior. Drew picked up his production in the second half of last season, and Grantham said his progress continued during offseason conditioning, noting that “he’s a guy that has really I think shown up in our offseason workouts as a man, meaning I see his size, I see his explosiveness.”
That, Richt said, could help Drew become the star pass rusher many recruiting analysts envisioned when he was in high school.
‘There’s no reason why Ray Drew can’t get sacks,’ Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. ‘Ray’s going to probably get some situations where he’s on a guard one-on-one and maybe they slide their protection away from him and there he is in a one-on-one situation, so he can do it, too.’”
Hope springs eternal for every college football program and every college football player this time of year.
For Ray Drew, however, the hope of the spring can translate to domination come fall.
And that domination could potentially help make him and his teammates SEC Champions in 2013.